The Beauty of God's Design?



Nature is red in tooth and claw. This is best explained by natural selection. If a good God exists then why didn't he create all animals as vegetarians?

First posted on 9/2/07

32 comments:

toomanytribbles said...

this is an amazing video.

a lot can be said for the altruism exhibited by the herd in their fight to save the calf.

Dan Marvin said...

Plus it shows that in nature there is no morals. Most all Seals are raped everyday, where the strongest survive.

Hilary said "It takes a village to raise a child"

Well that is true in nature as we see here, but not humans. Evolution and nature has no morals so again proof that we are set apart from nature for a higher purpose.

It is just plain logic, speaking of logic

proof of God

amei said...

to dan marvin:

so you mean your god created a moral-less nature?

David B. Ellis said...

Dan, as to the poll you link to: what is meant by "absolute" truth. A proposition is either true or it is false. To add "absolute" to it seems pointless and redundant.

zilch said...

Everyone knows it doesn't matter if non-human animals rip each other to shreds, because they have no souls. So you can torture your cat with a clean conscience.

Dan- your logic leaves a wee bit to be desired. You say, because seals rape, that's proof there are no morals in nature. Well surprise: people rape too. So who has morals?

Morals evolve from social behavior which is partially genetic. The reason social behavior evolved is that it conferred relative fitness on those who had it: cooperation can improve chances for survival and reproduction. Many non-human animals exhibit varying degrees of social behavior.

Morals are an elaboration of the social instincts we are born with, which help build society. As societies became larger and more complex, they required increasingly formalized rules to maintain order, and organizations and sets of beliefs to help enforce the rules.

Thus were born governments and religions. Rulers were appointed to apportion earthly rewards and punishments, and gods were invented to provide carrots and sticks in the hereafter.

Dan Marvin said...

Who are you trying to convince, me or you?

Layman said...

"If a good God exists then why didn't he create all animals as vegetarians?"

So you would believe in God if he hated vegetables?

John W. Loftus said...

Layman, let's see...vegetables or animals? Not a tough choice at all. Is that your only response? You do realize that because of the law of predation sometimes humans fall prey to canivores like sharks, lions and bears, right?

But in fact Chris, I go on to argue that God did not have to create us in such a way that any of his creatures had to eat anything at all. Yep. You heard me correctly. Think about it. As far as you know the laws of nature are nothing but perpetual miracles which we think of as nature’s laws. You cannot deny this as a theist. Since this is undeniable, the plain simple truth is that God could have created our bodies in a way that we didn’t need to eat. And if you claim that’s impossible I merely have to argue that God could’ve created nutrients within our bodies which sustain us as another one of God's perpetual miracles. If we never had to eat we wouldn’t know anything differently. We would think this is another one of nature’s laws.

Layman said...

Loftus,

I gave your post about as much attention as it deserved.

On what basis do you make distinctions between living beings such as vegetables and animals?

"If we never had to eat we wouldn’t know anything differently."

How did you determine that knowledge about eating cannot be something that God wanted us to have?

John W. Loftus said...

Layman, well it's just one post of many, so I do understand.

Listen, I'm not going to allow you to play that 'ole Jedi mind trick onme. ;-) Two answers: 1) It's just obvious that animals (and humans) are more valuable than vegatables. 2) According to what YOU believe vegetables are of less worth, and if that's the case you have the problem here, not me. Why does your God not value animals and human beings more than vegetables.

How did you determine that knowledge about eating cannot be something that God wanted us to have?

I'm only suggesting one way in which your God could've done differently if he wanted to, that's all. The question I asked you has to do with why your God didn't want to do so given the amount of horrific suffering in the natural world as a result.

Layman said...

1) It's just obvious that animals (and humans) are more valuable than vegatables

I was not familiar with the argument ad obviosum.

) According to what YOU believe vegetables are of less worth, and if that's the case you have the problem here, not me.

What scriptures do you think make such a blanket assertion? The value of animals and vegetables largely depends on markets, IMO.

I am more troubled by animal cruelty because of its affect on humans than I am vegetable cruelty.

Why does your God not value animals and human beings more than vegetables.

My God does value human beings above vegetables.

I'm only suggesting one way in which your God could've done differently if he wanted to, that's all.

That is an irrelevant point unless you can show that doing it differently would have equally served all of God's plans.

The question I asked you has to do with why your God didn't want to do so given the amount of horrific suffering in the natural world as a result.

I do not find the amount of suffering in the natural world to be horrific. I see no reason to believe that the amount of animal suffering is not justified by whatever purposes God has for creating the kind of world He did. Nor have you attempted to make such a showing. Instead, you have assumed that God could make radical changes to the nature of reality without affecting any of his other goals. That assumption is far from justified.

John W. Loftus said...

Layman said...I was not familiar with the argument ad obviosum.

Get used to it.

I am more troubled by animal cruelty because of its affect on humans than I am vegetable cruelty.

Then you need a lesson in animal cruelty.

John said...I'm only suggesting one way in which your God could've done differently if he wanted to, that's all.

Layman replied...That is an irrelevant point unless you can show that doing it differently would have equally served all of God's plans.

This is shifting the burden of proof, and I am familiar with this informal fallacy.

Layman said...I see no reason to believe that the amount of animal suffering is not justified by whatever purposes God has for creating the kind of world He did. Nor have you attempted to make such a showing. Instead, you have assumed that God could make radical changes to the nature of reality without affecting any of his other goals. That assumption is far from justified.

Aren’t you one who sees no moral lessons that animals must learn? What do they learn from their suffering? And aren’t you one who sees no eternal purposes in the existence of animals? Where do they go when they die?

Layman said...

John,

How can I have the burden of proof when you are the one trying to make some point? A point that cannot be made unless you prove that animal suffering serves no purpose, or is somehow unavoidable, given God's plans. You have made no such attempt (except a weak offering of a straw man) to demonstrate this point so you have failed to prove your argument.

Your straw man is to ask whether animals learn moral lessons or have souls. This is beside the point since no one argues that the reason for animal suffering is that animals become more moral or that they will go to heaven.

Also, if animal suffering were a real moral concern for us devoid of how it relates to humanity itself, then why not have huge intervention efforts to stop animals from being "cruel" to one another?

I know you are fond of this line of argument, but so far it seems devoid of any rigorous philosophical application. It seems, rather, an appeal to the unexplained "obvious" and the warm fuzzies people feel towards furry animals.

zilch said...

Dan- I'm not trying to convince anyone: I'm just putting my opinion out there for whatever it's worth.

John- while I agree with you that natural selection is the best explanation for nature being red in tooth and claw (Tennyson said that, by the way), I'm afraid it is not a good disproof of God. Since the idea of God is a jumbled mix of old stories, projections from human psychology, and a philosophical free-for-all with incommensurable infinite properties, any conceivable set of facts can be explained away as some consequence of His unfathomably complex and inexplainable character. He is a Designer God after all, and His Design (both in the sense of His designing us and our designing Him) are flexible enough to accommodate any piffling moral or logical conundra we mere mortals might raise.

We (or some of us, anyway) need Him so much, whether it's so we don't have to cease existing at death, or as a source of certainty for our morals, or whatever, that we are willing and capable of the most remarkable logical gymnastics and creative storytelling to get Him to fit our perceptions. True, belief in God gets results: it helps build communities and perhaps leads to peace of mind. But that doesn't make it true.

But in any case, trying to argue with believers about God's character is like punching a tar baby. While occasionally entertaining, you can get bogged down and incapable of motion. Sometimes it's better just to give the tar baby a wide berth.

John W. Loftus said...

Layman said…How can I have the burden of proof when you are the one trying to make some point?

If you remember, I merely asked you a question. If you don’t wish to answer it, that’s your prerogative. In case you want to take a stab at it rather than claiming “God knows the reason why,” here it is again: If a good God exists then why didn't he create all animals as vegetarians? I only made an assertion, that “natural selection best explains the law of predation,” and I think this is obvious when we compare these two hypotheses. As far as a “rigorous philosophical argument” goes, deal with Hume’s argument for the Hypothesis of Indifference.

As I said, I didn’t initially make an argument here so there is nothing to prove, either. But for you to somehow claim that if I cannot “prove” this then you are justified in believing against the available evidence, is admitting that the evidence is against what you believe. I challenged you to take a stab at a particular question, okay? Tell us why God did not make all animals as vegetarians. It was a question. Take a stab at it okay?

I claim you are the one who believes humans are more valuable than animals and vegetables. I also mentioned that you are the one who does not think animals have souls, or can learn any moral lessons from their behavior. You are also the one who doesn’t believe animals will be in heaven. I also didn’t see you dispute that your God can do perpetual miracles, or that the laws of nature might already be perpetual miracles. If I am incorrect on any of these points you haven’t told me that I am. If I am, please correct me, okay? I’m willing to learn your views on these matters. If you do believe all of these things then my question stands. Given all of these things that you believe, take a stab at my question, okay?

Layman said…Why not have huge intervention efforts to stop animals from being "cruel" to one another?

We do. We outlaw dog fights and cock fights, for instance. What reason do you have for joining these efforts? But as far as keeping carnivorous animals from devouring each other in the wild, how exactly is such a procedure to be done unless we domesticate all animals? Perhaps you’d want to give me a more reasonable alternative here rather than a far fetched one to make a point.

I know you are fond of this line of argument, but so far it seems devoid of any rigorous philosophical application. It seems, rather, an appeal to the unexplained "obvious" and the warm fuzzies people feel towards furry animals.

Yes I am very fond of this line of reasoning. Quentin Smith makes this same type of argument. When I did make my argument you didn’t comment on it. Maybe now you will. Just go here and comment on it, or come back here and show me why I’m wrong. If you can do this, I’d appreciate knowing where the flaw(s) are so I can better it. Furthermore, I’d very much appreciate it if you’d explain why my argument there appeals to “the unexplained ‘obvious’” or to “warm fuzzies.”

BTW Who do you think you’re dealing with here anyway?

Cheers.

John W. Loftus said...

Zilch said…I'm afraid it is not a good disproof of God.

I know there are many skeptics who disagree with me. So what? I think the whole problem of evil is an extremely strong argument against a Tri-Omi Christian God, and I have at least one convert.

Zilch said…But in any case, trying to argue with believers about God's character is like punching a tar baby. While occasionally entertaining, you can get bogged down and incapable of motion. Sometimes it's better just to give the tar baby a wide berth.

What is you point here...Not to argue because we cannot convince Christians otherwise? Surely not! If your point is that we should only press home the strongest arguments, then would you please inform me which ones are the strongest ones? And even if an argument isn’t the strongest from your (or my) perspective I’ve seen less than persuasive arguments convince people on both sides of this great debate. Besides, why can't someone focus on a minor argument just to learn about that argument, since learning is its own reward?

John W. Loftus said...

I just realized my link to my argument doesn't work because I deleted that other blog. Oh well. I'll post that argument in the upcoming days here. If interested, please stay tuned.

zilch said...

John- no, I'm not suggesting that we not argue with Christians, and I don't know what the most efficacious arguments are. I suppose it depends on the person: for me, the fact that the Bible doesn't jibe with science, and the obvious fitness of religions as a means of building societies, make it clear that they are just stories that evolved in the ideosphere out of wishful thinking and useful politics.

No, I was just blowing off steam about the difficulty of debating about a concept of God that morphs to evade logic. No offence intended toward Christians- we all have irrational beliefs. My tar baby analogy was meant to illustrate my feeling that since the supposed character of God is a story, it's difficult to assail it rationally.

John W. Loftus said...

Here's the link I referred to: link.

Mysterium Tremendum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mikespeir said...

Dan, you need a choo-choo to go on those tracks.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Why didn't God create animals to be vegetarians???

I don't want to cooperate with stigmatizing, sensationalizing, villainizing, etc. the process of anyone seeking to satiate their hunger - a worthwhile endeavor. I would be pretty conceited and hypocritical to view myself as superior to these animals just because the process of getting meat to my table is veiled from my immediate view. A meal eaten by a human being can be done with reverence and gratitude and celebration.

But why not all vegetarian animals?? I keep forgetting that the god some ppl seem to prefer is one who seeks to stifle creative expression (of which diversity is a benchmark) and promotes homogenous surroundings so as to assuage insecurities, and of course, nothing should be allowed to incite a fear or offense.

I believe in a God who is not intimidated by all the ways that blood is shed on this Earth and offers His own as grace to us for cooperating with such. The God I have come to recognize as divine is dynamic, creative, expressive and invitational to mankind to progress forward with Him out of darkness (and of course, conceit and hypocrisy are the foundational elements for evil to gain a footing).

I believe it is written that when God's way is fully actualized (we ourselves cooperate in keeping that from happening here on this earth and yes, animals suffer because of it) then the lion will lie down with the lamb.

Ciao

kilo papa said...

mini me wrote-"I believe in a God who is not intimidated by all the ways that blood is shed on this Earth..".

Intimidated?! Hell,I'd say he fairly well enjoys it.
Lev. 8:20-And when the ram was cut into pieces, Moses burned the head and the pieces and the fat and when the entrails and the legs were washed with water, Moses burned the whole ram on the altar, a PLEASING ODOR TO THE LORD, as the Lord commanded Moses.
And this gem from Joshua 5:2-The Lord said to Joshua "Make flint knives and circumcise the people of Isreal again". I mean,come on, who doesn't like a bloody penis sheath now and again?

mini me wrote-"(God) offers His own grace to us for cooperating with such (bloodshed)". So when you zoom up to Heaven after you die, you'll have one less need for Gods grace? Will you have any need for Gods grace then?

John, speaking of alternative diets, what do you think of this one from Ezekiel 4:15- And the Lord said,"I will let you have cows dung instead of human dung on which you may prepare your bread".

Is that Yahwehs version of the Atkins diet?

Harlan Quinn said...

Reminder,
John's away at a conference and won't be able to participate in the discussions till he gets back.
I'm doing comment moderation for him.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi Kilopapa: You referenced; "Moses burned the whole ram on the altar, a PLEASING ODOR TO THE LORD, as the Lord commanded Moses." So, are you gonna tell me you don't like the smell of barbecue?? Not that I believe the OT folks could fully discern God's nature (which is understandable)- actually Kilopappa there are some way better references spoken prophetically by Jesus Himself - they are much more compelling.

And BTW, I hope you aren't relying on me or other ppl to make this decision, but you do NOT have to be circumcised or eat feces.

As far as grace for heaven being needed - of course! I do not want to have reproach or unforgiveness for anyone that I may meet there! Contempt and condemnation do not fit well through the gates of heaven - they just don't.

Take care!

dvd said...

john, all this talk of vegetables and humans, and animals and the "value" of these creatures when it comes to suffering has made me wonder about a few things.

#1. If a Gorilla is more intelligent then a newborn baby, does this mean, that the Gorilla has more "value" then the newborn?

#2. A Gorilla would have more "value" then a person in a coma who can't "feel" and a "fetus?"'

#3. Vegetables and Humans who are in a coma are eqaul?


It seems that you are assuming some "value" here in animals but not explaining what it is based on. Sure, suffering "feels" bad, but what exactly "makes it bad" other then if "feels bad?"

If you want the stopping point at "no other reduction is needed" then one might wonder how do animals who are not "self-aware" in the sense as humans, truly suffer the "same" or "similar" as humans?

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Well all I can say is that it's good. As Psalms 104 states:


21 The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
22When the sun rises, they steal away
and lie down in their dens.
23 Man goes out to his work
and to his labor until the evening.

24O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great.
26There go the ships,
and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.

27These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
28When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with GOOD things.
29When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.


Common grace refers to God's activity in sustaining all of creation. Grace is unmerited favor and therefore God is under no obligation to be gratious to His creation. Witholding grace can only be unjust if it is owed. But it is never owed because it is unmerrited favor. God wasn't obligated to create neither is He obligated to sustain creation. Clearly God is good and He has good morally justifiable reasons for allowing animals to eat other animals.

DallasDeckard said...

Goodness John! Is this the best you've got? The old, moldy Argument from Evil? Come on! You've hitched your bandwagon to Hitchens and Dawkins, you can do better than that. You and I both know that Christians retort that when man sinned in the garden he introduced death into the world. God didn't design things to be this way, they became that way because man sinned and death and destruction followed. Toddler atheists know this is no constructive argument against the existence of God. What next? Are you going to drag the Passover Plot out of the dustbin? Shame. Even if you are pressed for time, there is no excuse for this kind of childishness. Either don't post, or post something with substance. Time matters, even if I'm reading the opposition's blog (perhaps even more). Get on the good foot, my friend. Keep this up and we'll begin to think the atheists have no new arguments. Oh... wait... ;-)

Anonymous said...

DallasDeckard said:
God didn't design things to be this way, they became that way because man sinned and death and destruction followed.

He must have been really shocked. If only he was all-knowing...

csm said...

I'm surprised that no xians have posted the old story that "before the fall" all animals were vegetarians... I've heard that one before (but they never seem to be able to explain how they lived on the ark without ripping each other to shreds).

kilo papa said...

mini me wrote-"are you telling me you don't like the smell of barbeque?"
Barbeque,yes. Goat testicles, probably not so much. (Lev. 22:24)

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Anon said: "He must have been really shocked. If only he was all-knowing..."

One of the more impressive traits about Jesus to me, is His courage in confronting ppl infected with evil - eg, the naked and violent man, Legion -it was a small matter to Him. His ability to recognize the symptoms of evil and then posing a simple question, "Who are you?". Wow - Compare that to how most ppl would react to such - police, restraints, mental health counseling for years, prison, etc. etc. etc..

So, no I don't see God as being shocked by all the ways we are infected with inhumanity, but His vision of us and His response is different than fight or flight allows. And no, I don't yet love naked and violent ppl as much as God does (at my level of faith right now, I confess I would call 911), but maybe someday I can grow in my capacity to show compassion - that is the hope anyway.

The best to you!